WORDS BY: OYINDA SALAKO
PHOTO BY: ANNIKA KEATING
Before we begin, I would like to note the soundtrack for my trip consisted of two songs: “Paris” by The Chainsmokers (obviously) and “Something like this” by Coldplay & The Chainsmokers (the feels are strong). So, please feel free to listen to those two while reading this article.
Never in a million years did I actually believe I would be traveling to Paris, France. To be honest, Paris was never on my list of places I wanted to visit. The city of love, also known as the city of lights, always sounded so fairytale – so unattainable that I never even dreamed I would get there. But alas, I have returned from a weeklong clown fiesta in Paris. It was incredible.
In the last fall semester, I registered for an honors short-term study abroad class called the introduction into contemporary Europe, which traveled to Paris, Brussels and Strasbourg during spring break. The moment 15 students and two faculty members had all been waiting for finally arrived, and the first day was my favorite. The first half of the day, a group of us decided to walk a seven mile round trip journey to Notre Dame, a Catholic cathedral built back in the 1100s. Remember that saying, it’s all about the journey not the destination. For this situation, both were incredibly amazing. Walking or using public transportation to get around a city I’m not familiar with is the best way to fall in love with a new place. You learn more about the journey’s end and you feel more inclusive in a new city when you take the time to get to know it. And this walk did exactly that.
Paris is an ancient city; the seven mile journey showed me insights into its past. The architecture of every building and plot of land was aged with figurines and statues of historical memorabilia. Strolling along cobblestones and curving, winding streets with back alleys made every single thing you saw a sight to behold worth a thousand words. And then we reach the cathedral; it was a massive wonderstruck moment, (a ton of these moments happen – I’ve never said ‘wow’ so many times in my life). The inside, the outside, the view from the very top, every inch of that masterpiece makes you marvel at your surroundings and your life – ‘this view is amazing’, ‘I’m here right now’, ‘what the..., I’m seeing all of Paris from here’, ‘wow.’
After the trek back to our hostel, we left to go see the Eiffel Tower, (repeat the last two sentences of the last paragraph and think ‘wow’ again). Later on, we got dinner nearby and saw the tower again at night, (you know what to do and add on another ‘wow’ while you’re at it). The city leaves you speechless and rightfully so because sometimes you don’t need to say anything, you just need to take it in.
Paris's diversity was an element of global culture I was not expecting, but thoroughly enjoyed. Speaking English and coming from California, I often see English as the universal language. Everywhere you turn in this country, no matter who you turn to, English is spoken. But in France, it is the same with French. So many cultures and so many people with so many different backgrounds are represented by the French language. I understood what another universal language looks like outside of my city, state, country, and continent.
Of course, a place is only as good as the people you are in it with. Thankfully, I was with some bougie brulee boys and some awesome people. We all connected and had a blast spending about 10 days together. We are a group of honor students, all of us with different majors and different lifestyles, but we all bonded to become the greatest clown fiesta Paris will ever know. Among the new revelations I found with my new friends include: French gum is not good, a baguette can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack time, I snore… sometimes loudly, the subway is actually easy to understand, yes they do check tickets, and lastly much like the splitting of an atom, tensions will arise between the amount on your credit card and the amount you actually have in the bank.
A week-long excursion is Paris was a dream come true manifested in gold. Before leaving for the trip, I knew the experience would become one of the greatest moments of my life holding my gratitude for the city, the locals, my new friends, my class, and the opportunity itself forever. Exploring a city as old as time, I adventured on a global dig that has left me humbled and more well versed – becoming a finer global citizen with a stronger sense of global awareness.